Here’s What You Can Expect From The First Ever Red Sea Film Festival
It’s only taken a few hundred years, but the Saudi Arabian film movement is finally getting the recognition it so deserves. Four Arab films were nominated for an Oscar this year – Brotherhood, For Sama, The Cave and Nefta Football Club – marking Hollywood’s recognition and appreciation of the Middle East’s film-making talent.
With the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival set to fling open its doors in Jeddah from March 12, this is just the beginning for Saudi films on the world stage. Taking place March 12-21 at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the festival will screen a total of 107 features and shorts curated by festival director Mahmoud Sabbagh and artistic director Hussain Currimbhoy.
The 16-strong Competition category – which features a judging panel headed up by American three-time Academy Award winner, Oliver Stone – “opens a window to the world we live in with all of its current challenges”, focusing on women’s rights, domestic violence, immigration and marginalised individuals among other issues.
“It’s pleasing that we are bringing these great quality films discussing social issues of the day, says Sabbagh. “We have a strong desire to push diversity, particularly in women's position in public spaces, and for a more open society. The films present a strong look at what makes society function and the relationship between the individual to patriarchy and hegemony.”
A selection of short films will showcase the next generation of homegrown talent, while dedicated masterclasses will see cinema icons like Abel Ferrara, Khairy Beshara and Yousry Nasrallah inspire and educate budding filmmakers, and the New Saudi/New Cinema programme will introduce the Saudi cinema voices primed for launch on the international circuit.
There’ll also be immersive cinema screenings from dynamic digital artists, a special viewing of Spike Lee's Malcolm X, which features scenes shot in Mecca, and a series of industry panels titled ‘Perspectives’ that will see filmmakers from around the world explore trends, ideas and issues shaping the industry today, from animation to European/Saudi co-productions.
“We worked hard to ensure that the films being presented showcase Saudi Arabia's emerging film industry, and encourage a more open cultural exchange,” says Sabbagh. This isn't just about exporting our stories; we are bringing different perspectives, new conversations into Saudi Arabia too.”